Is my offbeat lifestyle hurting my child?

Guest post by Nikita Ross
Nikita and her daughter.
Nikita and her daughter.

As I prepare to drop off my daughter to a Barbie Princess birthday party, I can’t help but take in the scene: crown molding, gorgeous granite countertops, color-coordinated décor with accent pieces, and a perfectly polished Mom/Queen of the Universe. She is immaculate. She is congenial. She is articulate.

I am not.

Thankfully it’s winter. Other than a single visible piercing, and my intense social awkwardness, there is nothing to say that “I’m not like her.” Perhaps my leather jacket is an odd choice for a snowy winter day, and I am noticeably younger than my peers, but other than that I look and sound like any other mom.

In my small, traditional town, however, I am not. My winter apparel serves me well in covering my tattoos and mohawk. My appearance here does not speak to my often scary artwork covering my walls, nor does it speak to my often scarier looking husband.

In my town, like so many small towns, perception is everything. At this point, I can no longer count the times I’ve had a fellow parent assume that I’m either unemployed or a stay-at-home parent. Nothing is wrong with either of these things, except for the visible shock on their faces when they discover that I have a high profile corporate job, and my husband is a successful business owner. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “Wow! Good for you!” with the tone of voice you’d use when praising a dog who rolled over upon command, I too would be a successful business owner.

Thankfully over the years I’ve developed a thick skin. It didn’t matter to me what these people thought… until my daughter came into the picture.

Then the fears ran rampant: Will she be invited to playdates? Will she be ashamed of me at parent-teacher meetings? Will she get in trouble for her inherited penchant for dark artwork? Is my outward appearance going to ruin her life? Will she hate me and wish I was a little more June Cleaver and a little less Morticia Addams?

The answer I’ve discovered after years of searching for it is NO.

One day at daycare, my daughter, and her friends were overheard having a venting session about their parents. One of her teachers couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation. When it was my daughter’s turn to vent she said, “My mom is the coolest mom ever. She has a leather jacket and listens to the best music.” Her friends then told her how lucky she is.

What I failed to account for, in my fears, is that children can be so empathetic and so accepting. They don’t have the prejudices that develop as we get older and more cynical. They can cure you of the jaded world-weary thoughts and feelings with a few simple words, or a spontaneous hug.

In truth, I also failed by letting my fear of rejection build walls against these other parents. Over time I’ve developed positive relationships with these individuals. We no longer see each other as polar opposites, but as parents who are simply trying to raise their kids to be good people.

My daughter is a ballerina with a flowery pink bedroom, who prefers to spend her free time playing with spiders in her old band t-shirts. She’s developing diverse interests and creating her own offbeat path rather than adhering to societal norms.

My offbeat lifestyle is not damaging my child; it’s enriching her life.

Comments on Is my offbeat lifestyle hurting my child?

  1. Absolutely, she is enriching her life, her way. And if she shares interests that her parents exhibit, it is because of genuine interest and not because she is pressured to do so. It is clear that you are raising her in the open-minded approach all parents should employ. I have had a slightly different experience. I am older than the mothers of my son’s friends. I was almost 42 when I had him. And his father died when he was 4, so we have developed more of a peer relationship than exists in families with both parents present. And at times I think I have shocked people with how my son and I communicate with each other-I don’t rule him and create arbitrary guidelines just because I am the parent and he is the child (although he is 22 now). But all his life I have asked for his opinion and valued it, and do so to this day. When he was younger he told me that all his friends thought he had the coolest mom. On any given weekend it was not unusual for my son to have get togethers with 3 or more friends in the basement where there were kid friendly sofas, a big tv with video games. Parents would always express amazement that I would allow this and so often. And I countered with, we all know where our kids are, they are safe and having fun and nothing ever happened that should not have. Frankly, I don’t concern myself with what other parents think, I care more about what my son thinks and he is fine with how he has been raised. In fact, more than once he has told me that he feels sorry for some of his friends because they don’t have great communication with their parents like we do. I am very proud of my son and our relationship, and I like that his friends feel comfortable around me. We all do our best and it would be wrong of us to try to live a lifestyle that doesn’t suit us. Our differences make us all interesting. You and your husband sound like great people, and you have proven that tastes are developed individually and not mandated by parental authority. I congratulate you that you are comfortable with your tastes and interests, you should be. We are all different, thank God, and I find that sometimes the people who live in the Barbie cream puff everything is perfect lifestyle are often afraid to do otherwise, lest they be judged. And it is not hard to imagine that they envy those of us who go against the grain.


    • Carole,

      Thanks for your kind words. Isn’t it interesting how being an “older” or “younger” mother can have such an impact on society’s perception of your parenting abilities? As though there’s a perfect time to have a child.

      The loss of your son’s father must have been so difficult. I imagine you have such a strong bond with your son as a result. I agree that we often underestimate children’s capacity for communication. Speaking to children with respect helps them build confidence and teaches them to communicate effectively.

  2. I needed to read this today. We have a non-traditional living situation due to my chronic illness. I have teal hair, wear pin up dresses, and refuse to cut my toddlers hair until he asks. My husband has an abundance of facial hair. We’re parenting in a gender neutral way. I can’t work because of my illness. All of this has made people question us and our parenting, repeatedly, to the point where I wondered if our kid was happy. In spite of all evidence that he was, I questioned. He loves our home, my hair, daddy’s beard, wearing dresses, but other people think we are doing everything wrong. Every once in a while, it’s good to hear from other mamas who are doing things a little differently, and doing okay.

    • The judgement for having a non-traditional lifestyle seems to be higher for those that have visual differences. I didn’t go into the specifics of my own lifestlye here, but I understand where you’re coming from. People seem to have tunnel vision on how things “should” be and can’t grasp that things work out great for people who don’t follow those norms. Sorry to hear of your struggles. All that matters is that the child is loved and cared for. Hang in there!

  3. I’ve an offbeat mother. I’m 37, and we have had a consistently better relationship than most of my peers with their mothers. As an adult I appreciate that she did face a lot of pressure from other mothers – including her own – to be more link everyone else. There were odd times when I wanted her to be more like other people’s mothers, but in general I appreciated the offbeat approach.
    These days she is enjoying offbeat grandmothering to my sister’s children.

  4. You are totally the coolest Mom! My Mom was always younger and more badass than the other moms. A no nonsense, tell it like it is bartender with a penchant for trashy romance novels. She loves vacationing and skiing and art and just always seemed like more of a real person than a “mom” I was always proud to have the cool mom and I’m sure your daughter is too!

  5. My mother was nothing like the mothers of my peers, all to the good. I have been thankful for her little oddities my entire life. The type of communication that she fostered has helped me so much, she realized when I was very young that calm dispassionate explanations were the best way to teach/discipline me. “Thing X is wrong for reasons A, B, and H.” She always used real reasons to not just this is how things are submit. Although she did tell me how things were, she thought it was just an fyi. She did things like pick me up from school on horseback. She loved to talk to me about books and other media, we used to watch The Twilight Show New Year’s Day marathon every year. She always said that until I was 21 that her job was to be my parent, I’m way past 21 and she is one of my best friends. (the friends I had when I was young have their own children now, they have told me that watching my mom taught them a good way to raise kids) I’m almost 40, if I had been raised by the average parent when and where I am from it would have been utterly disastrous.

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